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Drug fails sting test

Naxalbari, Oct. 18: After a detailed study of the Naxalbari region, reeling from a near-epidemic malaria situation, a team of experts from the National Anti-Malaria Programme (Namp) has found that nearly 40 per cent of the cases are resistant to chloroquine, the first line drug for treatment of the disease.

What health officials had so long passed off as recrudescence due to 'incomplete dosage' resulting from ignorance, is now being seen as the ineffectiveness of chloroquine in wiping out the parasite. This often leads to a relapse even after the full course is taken.

Contacted over telephone in Calcutta, team leader Prasanta Karmakar, who is a senior research officer at Namp's zonal office, said the finding corroborates an earlier study done by the Malaria Research Centre in 2003, which found chloroquine resistant cases in Sukna, near Siliguri, and Naxalbari.

The team had spent almost a month in Naxalbari recently, examining malaria patients at the block hospital there and collecting blood slides.

'The finding are a cause for alarm, as the patients who do not respond to choloroquine could be the source of the resistant strain spreading to other persons through mosquito bites,' said Gautam Dasgupta of the department of medicine at the Siliguri sub-divisional hospital.

The new deputy chief medical officer of health II, Parthasarathi Bhattacharya, who joined office yesterday, said he was unaware of the findings. While paying a visit to the Naxalbari hospital, he said second line drugs like quinine would have to be given to patients not responding to chloroquine.

However, according to the treatment schedule laid down by Namp, the radical treatment of P.falciparum cases in chloroquine resistant areas should be a single dose of sulfadoxine (500mg X 3), pyrimethamine (75mg) and primaquine (45mg).

'We are not giving this dose as we fear patients might react to the sulphur drug, and may even develop Stephen-Johnson syndrome,' said hospital superintendent A. Dutta. Asked if there had been any such reaction among drug resistant patients, Dutta, however, said no. 'The apprehension is theoretical.'

Meanwhile, sabhadipati of Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad Mani Thapa today distributed mosquito nets at Jabra, about 7 km from Naxalbari town. The nets were donated by the Lions Club of Siliguri Terai.

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